HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Political candidates in Montana reacted swiftly Monday to Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin's comments that women's bodies can prevent pregnancies if they are victims of "a legitimate rape."
Attorney General Steve Bullock criticized his opponent's staunch anti-abortion stance after the issue made its way back into the spotlight.
Bullock is running for governor against former congressman Rick Hill, who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest.
"I think from that perspective, the difference couldn't be clearer between us. As governor, I will defend a women's right to choice," Bullock said. "I think these are complicated and difficult decisions, but they shouldn't be made by the government. They should be made by women and their doctors."
Hill stood by his position while repudiating the comments by Akin. Hill has said he opposes abortion in nearly all cases, except for when the mother's life is at risk.
The Republican said the position comes from his belief that every life is worth living and should be protected. Hill also supports this year's ballot measure requiring parental notification for teens seeking an abortion, while Bullock argues it is unfair to victims of incest and others.
Hill attempted to turn the tables on Bullock, and criticized him anew for the handling of the state's database of sex offenders that was the subject of a critical audit under Bullock's watch. Hill said the mismanagement puts the public at risk.
"He failed in his responsibility," Hill said.
Bullock, in his defense, pointed to a recent opinion column from police leaders that argued that local agencies are doing the best they can to provide current offender addresses to the attorney general's office. That information is used to update a database that was found to have outdated or unverified information in many cases.
Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg called Akin's remarks "offensive and reprehensible." Rehberg said he is opposed to abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the life of the mother.
His opponent, incumbent U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, said Akin's remarks shed light on the importance of fighting efforts by conservatives in Congress to limit access to abortions.
"I join most Montanans in standing with women to demand that they have that fundamental right," Tester said. "These remarks are another irresponsible setback in this important fight."
In the race to replace Rehberg, Democrat Kim Gillan said Akin's "disgusting and insulting" comments "point to exactly why more and more women don't trust the U.S. House of Representatives."
"I believe that one of the best ways to protect women's health is to elect more women to Congress," she said.
Her opponent, Republican Steve Daines, strongly disagreed with Akin's comments, said campaign manager Zach Lahn. Daines is opposed to abortion in all cases except when the life of the mother is at risk, Lahn said.